Damn you, internet! Damn you, hordes of fantasy sports writers churning out an over-abundance of content! It used to be so easy; so much fun. I would dominate my fantasy baseball league year after year and there was no greater ego boost than sitting there on draft day, listening to the chorus of “Who’s?” after making what I knew to be a tremendous and pretty sneaky pick in the later rounds and knowing that the player I just grabbed was going to impress all year and be a heavy trade target for my competition in no time. They used to be called sleepers. Now, thanks to all of you, they’re the trendiest picks in the draft and are losing their value year after year.
You’ve got to admire the growth of the fantasy sports business. It went from being a back-room group of nerds playing their own sports-related version of Dungeons and Dragons to a multi-million (dare I even say billion?) dollar industry that turns even the coolest of jocks into crazed stat-geeks. There are countless web sites dedicated to the game and even in the dying age of print, you still have dozens of fantasy-related magazines hitting the shelves of both newsstands and those archaic monstrosities called bookstores.
But I remember back in the day when I first started playing this game, which had already been around for more than a decade before I joined my first league, when hard work and due diligence pushed you ahead of your competition. It was more than just studying a team’s 25-man roster. I dug deep. It was the 40-man roster. It was the minor league affiliates. It was the scouting reports that no one else had the patience to sit and read. I knew as much as I could about every major league team and its players. And on the day of our draft, while most were still in bed recovering from Phish at the Wetlands the night before, I was up early, searching for any and all last bits of information of position battles and rotation finalists.
Today, all that work is already done for you. It’s sitting there at your fingertips just a few clicks away. And because of that, the edge that I once had — the ability to pull a name from out my posterior during the 21st round and have it be an impact player no one ever heard of — is gone.
Go ahead and Google “fantasy baseball sleepers” and you’ll see more entries pop up than you know what to do with. Every web site, every magazine, every radio show on…yup…SiriusXM Fantasy Radio…has its own list of sleepers. But can we really call them that anymore? Maybe ten years ago we could. Maybe if it were ten years ago, players like Allen Craig, Kris Medlen, Anthony Rizzo and Matt Moore wouldn’t be on everyone’s radar like they are today. But suddenly Jeff Erickson says that one of his favorite picks in the December RotoWire Experts Draft is Marco Estrada and…BAM! He goes from a 23rd round “who?” to a guy you have to reach for in the 18th because now everyone is looking to “sneak him through.” And God forbid Matthew Berry latches onto him. Then you’re looking for him in the 12th.
Look at them all — Josh Rutledge, Jarrod Parker, Jason Grilli, Todd Frazier, Matt Harvey, Starling Marte. Sleepers? Not anymore, they aren’t. They’re so trendy, hipsters wouldn’t draft them. How about the rookies? Jurickson Profar, Billy Hamilton, Manny Machado, and Dylan Bundy? All of them are high-profile these days, mainstream picks if you will. Everyone knows them, everyone wants them and none of them are going to come at the sleeper price they once had.
Maybe I sound like the old man sitting on his porch collecting frisbies and baseballs from careless and disrespectful neighborhood kids, but dang it, sometimes I miss those days when a little hard work and gumption was all you needed to win your league. I might hear a “nice pick” or a “ooooh, you just stole him from me” during my drafts, but they just don’t elicit the same feelings of a good, old-fashioned “who.” It’s just not the same.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the job beckons and I have to go do a write-up on Yordano Ventura.